College Menus Served in GA High School

Students in Thomas County Public Schools are getting exposed to the college experience without leaving their high school cafeteria. The district’s creative school nutrition team puts together an event called Taste of College featuring dining hall favorites from area colleges and universities in Georgia.

“It got the students excited to check out a college they may not have thought about and exposed them to new foods and new ideas,” said Lauren Duplantis, Ph.D., School Nutrition Director for Thomas County Schools.

The idea for Taste of College started with the district’s former nutrition coordinator, Kalin Bryan. While earning her degree at the University of Georgia, she interned at UGA’s dining services and wanted the high school students to know how good the food is in college.  

They reached out to colleges in the area and asked for recipes of their most popular meals and the response was positive. The colleges helped the department scale the recipes for the high school population. The week-long event in April 2023 featured menu items from the University of Georgia, Georgia Southern University, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech University and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

“It really takes the whole team and community to accomplish this week,” said Duplantis. “We had to reach out to a community Publix for some missing ingredients and we received assistance from Georgia’s Department of Education to teach our staff members some new skills and helped us grow as a nutrition department.” 

The week of college menus proved quite popular – the home-style line served double the number of students as a normal week. That overwhelmingly positive response to Taste of College means Thomas County students will enjoy it again next April as a way to celebrate their accomplishments at the end of the school year. Students in nearby Gwinnett County may soon be able to enjoy the experience too. Now working in Gwinnett, Kalin Bryan returned to her former school district with the nutrition director to see if this experience can be brought to Gwinnett.

The college with the most popular lunch menu was Georgia Southern University that featured pulled pork, BBQ chicken, herb-roasted red potatoes, rice pilaf, haricots verts with herb butter and banana pudding. From Georgia State students were treated to vegan beef & broccoli, scratch mac & cheese, Greek chicken souvlaki, falafel & tzatziki sauce and red velvet cookies. While the Georgia Tech menu had Jerk chicken, baked Gouda mac & cheese, sweet potatoes and greens, broccoli salad, Saag tofu, turmeric rice, M&M blondie bars and double chocolate chip cookies.

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